Local Escapes

The Best Restaurants In Regional NSW

By Jack Revell
29th Aug 2023

A dining table at Amara, one of the best restaurants in regional NSW

NSW has more than its fair share of far-off places brimming with delicious foods. There's a good scattering of restaurants right across the state that are well worth clocking some annual leave and packing your weekend bag for. Yep—the types of places you plan a holiday around getting a table at, that use locally sourced ingredients to bring the flavour and character of the surrounding country to your plate.

Here are 20 top regional restaurants in NSW that should be on your road trip hit list for this year—maybe you could even tick a few off in one trip?

Amara 

Blue Mountains

best restaurants regional nswHigh up on the slopes of Bowen Mountain, hatted restaurant Amara is hidden within the spectacular Spicers Sangoma Retreat, overlooking the property's tranquil pool, peaceful bushland, and an incredible sky-high view of the Sydney basin. Led by head chef Garth Edas, Amara follows the retreat's eco-friendly ethos, using organic produce sourced from within 100km or a one-hour drive from the restaurant. 

For lunch, you'll be treated to a five-course set menu, while dinner is a delightful seven-course set menu feast. Edas lets the ingredients do the talking with traditional cooking techniques like charcoal and fire—a mushroom and togarashi mini toast as a snack to start followed by leek and asparagus with a mushroom consommé. Market fish is drizzled with a tasty seafood bisque and, for dessert, Edas' take on the classic apple pie. 

Megalong Restaurant

Blue Mountains

best restaurants regional nswNestled into some of the Blue Mountains' most picturesque bushland, Megalong Restaurant is a paddock-to-plate dining experience in the purest form. Here, executive chef Colin Barker (ex-The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay) is creating immersive menus using produce that is almost 100% sourced from the kitchen garden and surrounding paddocks of the regenerative and organic LOT 101 farm. 

Just two hours out of Sydney, the 50-seat restaurant is a renovated homestead with 360-degree views of the breathtaking valley, sandstone escarpment, and gardens. When you visit, you'll be treated to five or six courses—a moveable feast that changes daily based on what Barker and his team have farmed and foraged. Expect snacks on arrival followed by simple but perfected proteins, vegetable sides, fruit-based desserts, and petit fours. Matched wines are also available. 

The Zin House

Mudgee

Situated on the spectacular family-owned and run Lowe Estate winery, The Zin House is run by long-time veteran chef and past NSW Rural Woman of the Year winner Kim Currie. The food is seasonal, local (with much from their own extensive kitchen gardens, orchards and grazing farmland) and the optional wine pairing from Lowe Estate is matched by David Lowe himself. Bookings are essential.

Raes Dining Room

Byron Bay

best restaurants regional nswAs one of the most famous holiday destinations in Australia, Byron is bound to attract some of Australia’s best culinary minds. Across from Wategos Beach, one of the region’s best swimming spots, is Raes Dining Room at the ultra-chic Raes on Wategoes hotel. From executive chef Jason Saxby, this light and coastal eatery plates up modern Australian with plenty of Mediterranean influence. If the relaxing beach surroundings aren’t enough for you, maybe dishes like a Davidson plum glazed free-range pork scotch fillet or spanner crab and sweet corn agnolotti will be.

WILMA

Canberra

best restaurants regional nswWhile not technically in NSW, we're making an exception here for chef James Viles. The renowned chef, formerly responsible for Bowral’s sustainability-focused Biota, brings inspiration from time spent in Hong Kong and Shanghai to Canberra's first progressive Asian barbecue restaurant. The interiors at WILMA are moody and sleek, warmed by a gigantic konro yakitori grill that weighs in at just over half a tonne. From Viles and head chef Brendan Hill (Aria, 12-Micron), the menu is broken into sections, with "raw" like scallop and prawn tartare, "snacks" like roast duck pancakes, "wok" like Balmain bug with egg noodles, and "BBQ" like Mongolian lamb ribs.

Subo

Newcastle

Subo has a simple goal: to serve delicious food in a relaxed environment. To do that, the Newcastle restaurant offers a six-course set menu (two entrees, two mains, two desserts) which changes twice a season. The wine list is minimal intervention and entirely Aussie, bringing small, local producers to light, and the setting, with exposed brick and plenty of light, feels just like home.

Tonic

Millthorpe

best restaurants regional nswHalfway between Orange and Bathurst, Tonic is the perfect stopping-in spot for Sunday lunch or weekend dinner that packs a punch. Established in 2003, it sits at the heart of this historic town and has played no small part in putting it squarely on the foodie map. The five-course degustation with wine pairing is the best way to taste your way through the local offerings which are changed regularly, and for $80 a head, you would be hard-pressed to find a better deal nearby.

Bistro Livi

Murwillumbah

Offering loosely Spanish-influenced fare in a charming town inland from Byron Bay, Bistro Livi is an elegant and intimate local favourite that guarantees a memorable date night. They're all about the local Northern Rivers produce (of which there is an absolutely abundance), served in small share plates made to pair with their interesting and considered beverage list.

Birch

Moss Vale

best restaurants regional nswAnother Southern Highlands eatery worth the 90-minute drive from Sydney is Moss Vale’s Birch. The intimate, fine-dining restaurant is located in an up-and-coming culinary spot in the region, near the historic local train station. Expect an intimate and cosy country experience with a modern Australian menu that focuses on creativity and ingredients at the prime of their seasons. Birch is only open Thursday–Saturday, with Thursday nights reserved for a rotating chef’s degustation set menu and a monthly Sunday long lunch.

EXP. Restaurant

Pokolbin

There’s already so much calling us to wine country in the Hunter Valley. But if you want another delicious drawcard, book a table at EXP. Restaurant. Open Friday–Monday, the Pokolbin restaurant was opened in 2015 by chef and owner Frank Fawkner. As it should, EXP. takes full advantage of its renowned surroundings, from local farm produce to its wine list. To see how the magic happens, ask for a seat at the chef bar, where you can enjoy the spectacle of wood-fired grills, or in the restaurant garden to soak up the fresh Hunter Valley air while you dine.

Pipit

Pottsville

Pipit is a not-so-hidden gem on the far north coast headed by former Paper Daisy chef Ben Devlin. They specialise in small, light, hyper-seasonal share plates that are masterfully prepared at the open-plan kitchen. Chatting with the chefs is very much encouraged as they work their craft on the locally acquired produce. It’s a set menu here, which changes regularly and comes in short- or long-form.

Il Passagio

Bermagui

Head south of the big smoke (aaaaalmost till you hit Victoria) to find this modern Italian gem. Il Passaggio's charming outlook over the fisherman's wharf sets the scene (is that an Adriatic breeze?), and the food blends rustic Italian techniques with the best local produce, with antipasti, pizzas, pastas and main dishes perfect for filling that post-roadtrip hole.

Charred

Orange

Orange is known as an up-and-coming foodie capital, and Charred holds a well-earned spot on the city's culinary hit list. Their farm-to-plate philosophy and approach to cooking set them apart, along with the massive cast-iron wood burner. It’s all seasonal fare, and while their slow-charred meats are an obvious go-to, they still have plenty up their sleeves for veggoes and vegans.

Paper Daisy

Cabarita

The stunning beachside restaurant of the retro-glam Halcyon House hotel, Paper Daisy epitomises coastal NSW dining. Expect sophisticated simplicity celebrating the produce of the region, including plenty of seafood, prepared by head chef Jason Barratt. Bonus: the bar is stocked with 120+ gins for an after-dinner sip.

Graze Willow Tree Inn

Willow Tree

Graze at the Willow Tree Inn on the way to Tamworth is another classic out-of-the-way spot that hits all the right notes. A heritage stone building with lush gardens surrounding it, the husband and wife duo behind Willow Tree serves choice in-house dry-aged cuts of  Black Angus beef from their farm up the road.  

Light Years

Newcastle

pink restaurant interiorPopular Byron Bay restaurant Light Years has found another home in Newcastle, meaning you can now get its fun Asian fare a lot closer to Sydney. The sweeping Darby Street venue boasts a retro Palm Springs-inspired fit-out: think dusty pink hues, curved booth seating, blonde timber, marble benchtops, mosaic tiling, and palm trees. Matching the eclectic design is the cuisine-crossing menu, featuring dishes such as bao buns, mud crab dumplings, duck pancakes, prawn rolls with yuzu mayo, Korean bo ssam-style steak, and more. We suggest you order a couple of cocktails, settle into a booth, and experience Newcastle's burgeoning hospitality scene firsthand. 

Rick Stein At Bannisters

Mollymook And Port Stephens

This is pretty much THE destination seafood experience for fine dining in NSW. Chef Rick Stein needs no introduction but, suffice it to say, he cooks a mean fish. Dining on fresh seafood straight from the ocean as it rolls out in front of you is always an incredible experience, but when you’ve got the quality and expertise of this institution behind you, it doesn’t get much better.

Pilot

Canberra

What to say about Pilot? Four words: make sure you go. With a team made up of veterans from some of the country’s best restaurants, including Sydney’s Ester, Oscillate Wildly and Momofuku Seiobo, you know it’s going to be good. Here there is no a la carte, only the Pilot menu or set lunch and an excellent selection of natty wines. Neither menu is shown to you until the end meaning it’s a fully trust-based exercise and, trust us, it’s worth it.

Saddles

Mount White

Starting out within striking distance of Sydney, Saddles is a waterfront restaurant and bakehouse set into the lush greenery of a plant nursery. If you think that sounds like getting a meal at Bunnings, you would be wrong. It’s a huge modern barn structure dripping in ornate furnishings set on 28 acres of bushland and serving up delicious, locally sourced seasonal Aussie cuisine. Try the house-made charcuterie board  and the homemade caramelised banana pancakes are worth leaving room for.

Eschalot

Berrima

It’s all white table cloth fancy here at Eschalot, which is built into a heritage sandstone cottage in the Southern Highlands. They build their dining experience around paddock-to-plate ethics that are blended with diverse, international leanings. 

Muse Restaurant

Hunter Valley

It's hard to play favorites when you're talking about the Hunter, but Muse consistently tops so many “best of” lists that it would be wrong to leave it out. It’s truly next-level dining that epitomises everything the Hunter is about. That is, wide-open spaces with views of the surrounding vineyards and a menu packed with all the best local produce and of course, wine. 

Now, check out:

Image credit: Amara, Amara, Megalong Restaurant, Raes on Wategos, WILMA, Tonic, Birch, Pipit, Paper Daisy, Light Years, Pilot, Saddles, Destination NSW

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